I have good ideas a lot of the time, but every once in a while I have a great idea. This brownie recipe is one of those rare really great ideas. It’s my flux capacitor moment. Keep reading to learn more.
Yes. I’m vegan. And I know that we get a bad wrap for putting weird shit into stuff like brownies made with avocados and beans and then lying through a smiling grimace to say it’s the best brownie ever. Or making BBQ from mushrooms and saying that you won’t even know it’s not meat. You’ll immediately know it’s not meat BTW. We do tend to concoct some strange shit and serve it in a coconut bowl for some unknown reason. But this isn’t one of those recipes. No fingers crossed behind my back. I promise there’s no beans in this recipe.
I love brownies. That decadent chocolate richness that just melts in your mouth. But what I don’t like is when a brownie falls apart, or you can’t even get it out of the pan because it’s a gooey mess. That’s where this recipe invention comes in. I wanted a brownie that has all the goodness of a fudgy and soft center but firm enough to actually be picked up. I wanted it sweet but not shock your teeth sweet. And I wanted lots of chocolate richness without needing bars and bars of different kinds of chocolate. I’m on a budget and don’t want to forgo my mortgage ordering all sorts of fancy chocolates.
This is definitely a recipe you need to try, because it’s really easy to make, and the results will satisfy even the most connoisseur of brownie lovers. It’s fudgy but doesn’t fall apart, and it has that crackly crisp top that is coveted in the brownie world. You’d never even know it’s vegan unless you’re the one making it.
This recipe has a lot of familiar brownie ingredients, but the technique of putting it together is what makes it unique. You start by boiling the sugar and water to nearly the soft ball stage (think liquid caramel) which locks in moisture and helps to bind the ingredients together for a more firm texture while still being fudgy. I should get paid for every use of the word fudgy.
I wanted the recipe to be easy enough for anyone to make too. Not everyone has a candy thermometer or a culinary degree. It’s a recipe for the everyday cook who just wants a brownie that doesn’t suck. A lot of recipes claim to be the best ever, but when you make it you’re probably pretty underwhelmed. This will definitely whelm you, and I’m not going to open the door for trolls by saying it’s the best ever. But it’s good, and I’d love for you to try it and give me your thoughts.
A brownie is really just a vehicle for packing the most chocolate experience into something that is essentially an under-baked, no-rise cake. To get that consistency you need two main ingredients: fat and sugar. And lots of it. The more sugar, the softer and fudgier it’ll be but you can risk having too much and it won’t set. Sugar baked at a low temp doesn’t crystalize but it traps moisture so if you lower the amount of sugar it’ll be too dry. Too much moisture/liquid, and it’s goo. Too much fat and it’s greasy. So you have to hit the sweet spot of just enough of each ingredient. If you use a sugar substitute the recipe won’t work or if you lower the fat content the brownie will just be a dense and dry cake. Basically, don’t swap out ingredients unless you’re willing to compromise consistency and flavor.
Boiling the sugar: more detailed instructions.
|Thread||begins at 230 F||The syrup will make a 2″ thread when dropped from a spoon.|
|Soft Ball||begins at 234 F||A small amount of syrup dropped into chilled water forms a ball but flattens when picked up with fingers|
|Firm Ball||begins at 244 F||The ball will hold its shape and flatten only when pressed.|
|Hard Ball||begins at 250 F||The ball is more rigid but still pliable.|
|Soft Crack||begins at 270 F||A small amount of syrup is dropped into chilled water, it will separate into threads that will bend when picked up.|
|Hard Crack||begins at 300 F||The syrup separates into threads that are hard and brittle.|
|Caramelized Sugar||310 F to 338 F||Between these temperatures the sugar will turn dark golden but will turn black at 350 F.|
The temperature for this recipe falls into the Thread or Soft Ball stage of heated sugar. Because my recipe mixes water with sugar, you’re not going to get those same physical results. However, this chart is a good guide in terms of understanding the stages sugar goes through when it’s heated. Another way to look at it is in terms of time for each stage. It generally takes sugar, on high heat, 25-30 minutes to reach Hard Crack, 300F. Light and Dark caramelization takes about 40 minutes. So, you don’t have to worry about cooking the sugar for this recipe too long, unless you forget to set a timer and take a nap.
The one variable that can throw off the results is if you’re using an electric or glass top stove and you turn down the heat but don’t remove the pan from the heat. It takes a few minutes for those stove tops to cool from boiling temperature to simmer temperature. Overcooking the sugar water could evaporate out too much water and crystalize the sugar. The tip is to remove the pan from the burner to let the burner cool or just switch the pan from the boiling temp burner to a simmer temp burner. Ya. That’s what I’d do. Transfer to a cooler burner. I have used a gas stove and oven for my entire cooking life and I often forget that electric and glass stoves cook differently. But, I do know someone who made this recipe and had the fun result of turning the sugar water into what looked like sand. I was baffled because I didn’t know it could do that. The culprit. A glass top stove. So, what we’ve learned here is to transfer the pot to a cooler burner.
I wanted to make the cooking process simple and do it so that you don’t need a candy thermometer. I broke the cooking into three steps to make it as easy as possible. You bring the sugar water to a boil, reduce the heat to a light simmer, then bring it back to boil before removing from heat. This will get you to roughly the soft ball stage without needing to take the temperature.
You can see the difference in how the sugar water looks between the first boil and second boil. There is less foaming and by the second boil the liquid looks more glossy with fewer but more rigid bubbles. It will still pour like syrup, but the sugar has been cooked long enough to have different properties. Also, some of the water has evaporated, leaving behind a thicker than water syrup. This step gives the brownies a firm but fudgy texture!
A helpful tip for brownie baking is to bake in a pan with a parchment paper sling. The sling helps you to remove the brownies from the pan so that you can cut them and remove them without totally destroying the first brownies while you attempt to get a spatula in there. Cut a piece of parchment paper the width of the bottom of the pan and long enough to it hangs over the sides. Still oil the pan, but the sling lets you lift the whole brownie out before cutting. If you’re using an 8×8″ pan it doesn’t matter which direction you put the sling since it’s a square. If you’re using a 9×13″ pan put the sling in so that it’s 9″ wide and can be pulled from the sides rather than the top/bottom. If you pull the sling from the long ends your brownie will sag in the middle and more than likely crack in half. See picture below of a sling for an 8×8″ pan.
That’s all I have for now and I’m sure you’re excited to get to the recipe and start baking. My tip for using this recipe, cook the sugar water while your oven preheats. That way it’s ready to go and has had time to cool enough so that it won’t flash cook your batter when you add it. Also, get your pan prepped and all of your ingredients out before starting to mix things.
- 8×8" baking dish or 9×13" baking dish
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (or 1:1 GF baking blend)
- 3/4 cup cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (or 1 tsp kosher salt)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 5 tablespoons unsweetened apple sauce
- 1/2 cup canola oil (or any neutral flavor oil)
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon instant coffee (can omit, but helps enhance chocolate flavor)
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray oil or grease an 8×8" baking dish. Cut a piece of parchment the width of the dish and long enough to hang over the sides. More information on this parchment sling in the blog post. An 8×8" dish will give you a 1 1/2" thick brownie. You can bake it in a 9×13" dish which will make a 3/4" brownie. I prefer the thicker one.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda. In a measuring cup mix together the apple sauce, canola oil, vanilla, and instant coffee.
- In a sauce pot, bring water and sugar to a full boil. Reduce heat to medium, should have constant bubbles but only in a few parts of the pan, and cook for 5 minutes. Bring back to a boil then remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes. See blog post for pictures and more details. (If using an electric or glass top stove, remove the pan from the boiling temp burner and transfer to a cooler burner for the simmer stage.) Pay close attention to the cooking times and set timers for the simmer and cool stage.
- Mix the wet ingredients and the warm sugar mixture into the dry ingredients. Mix until there are no dry clumps remaining. Fold in the chocolate chips.
- Scoop the batter into the prepared baking dish. Spread and flatten. Bake for 40-45 minutes for an 8×8" dish, 35-40 minutes for a 9×13" dish. An inserted toothpick should come out mostly clean.
- Don't skip this step. Once brownies are removed from the oven allow them to cool completely or at least most of the way. If you cut into the brownies before they've cooled they will be too gooey and fall apart. You can always warm them up a little in a microwave or air fryer, but they should cool initially. This also allows excess water to evaporate and the center to finish cooking while it cools.
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